We are mere days away from another Husker football season. While we don't know who the heroes of the 2015-2016 season will be just yet, I can use my pop culture expertise to equate some of this year's Huskers to some standout characters in comic books.
Just a recap on me - Hi. I'm Greg. I'm a Husker fan. You may remember the podcast series I co-hosted with Brian Towle (De-Tasseling the Huskers). I'm also a huge nerd. I admit it. Hell, I'm proud of it. And if comic books, movies, and such are an interest of yours, check out my Nerds United podcast.
We have all become familiar with the likening of recent Huskers to comic book characters. At some point, Rex Burkhead was given the nickname Superman. Imani Cross was dubbed the Hulk (personally, I think the Red Hulk would have been more appropriate). And lastly, recent second-round pick Randy Gregory was proven worthy of the powers of Thor.
This idea started when in a CN conversation, it was asked what player could be Batman...or Spider-Man...or Superman. I then asked the group to give me some of the current players to put them behind the mask, under the cowl, or into the cape.
Chongo Kondolo - a name that perked interest from his initial statement of intent to play for Big Red. Redshirting his first year on campus, Chongo played in all thirteen games a year ago, backing up the guard position. Now in his senior season, the 6'4" 300-pound Texan will look to be a starter and make an impact.
For this reason, I have equated Chongo to a friend of an Avenger (Tony Stark/Iron Man) who would become an Avenger himself. He is a heavy hitter, always bringing the heavy artillery. Chongo Kondolo is Col. James Rhodes, aka WAR MACHINE! (Portrayed by Terrance Howard in Iron Man and Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and going forward)
Michael Rose-Ivey Junior Michael Rose-Ivey missed all of last year with a knee injury. But as a redshirt freshman in 2013, Rose-Ivey broke a record for tackles by a freshman, a record previously held by by Barrett Ruud. So the injury was not just a setback for the linebacking corps, but for the young LB as well.
For Rose-Ivey, you have to choose someone who overcame adversity. The problem is that so many heroes overcome adversity. So in making this selection, I also went with a character whose adversity was also an injury. Therefore, I declare that Rose-Ivey's comic book character is Cyborg, a member of the Justice League (aka Victor Stone).
It's a two-fer, because Victor Stone was a very talented high school football player before certain circumstances made him the hero he became. As Cyborg, Stone is connected into every piece of technology available, much like Rose-Ivey has been active on social media over the years. Cyborg finally receives a solo ongoing series that debuted this past July. (Victor Stone/Cyborg will be played by a young actor named Ray Fisher in the DC Cinematic Universe, starting with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
Tommy Armstrong - Armstrong has amassed seventeen wins in his time at Nebraska. The highly touted quarterback from Texas has his name in the record book for longest pass in Nebraska history and NCAA bowl game history.
Armstrong has also set the Nebraska Sophomore records for most passing yards (2,695), passing touchdowns (22), and total offense (3,400 yards). It certainly appears that Arm-so-strong has risen to the occasion in a role that had its fair share of newsworthy predecessors. For this reason, Tommy Armstrong is Sam Wilson as Captain America. There must always be a Captain America. Captain America is less about the man himself and more about those ideals or beliefs for which the man stands.
When Steve Rogers decided to hang up the shield, there was truly only one man to take his place. Sam Wilson, who has long been a friend and associate of Rogers' as the Falcon, would don the the familiar red, white (scarlet and cream), and blue of the stars and stripes and become the new Captain America. Plus, since he's a Captain in 2015, well...that's just a happy coincidence. (Anthony Mackie was cast as Sam Wilson/the Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and has also appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, and will return in Captain America: Civil War)
Maliek Collins - There is something about being a defensive tackle. You're relatively single-minded in your task. Once you are set to purpose, you do everything possible to achieve your goal. And for a DT, it's typically get to the opposing quarterback or bottle up the middle of the line on an inside run attempt. You don't typically drop into coverage. You use your size and strength to move forward.
Collins is very good at moving forward. He was on the Lombardi Trophy watch list, named the team's Defensive co-MVP in 2014, Collins is looking to this year to throw his weight around and impose his will. At 6'2" and 300 pounds, the weight will certainly be thrown around. However it is the will to keep moving forward...to overcome an obstacle that earns Collins the place among the greatest force the universe has ever known - the Green Lantern Corps. But not just any Green Lantern - Collins, voted a team captain in 2015, is admired by his teammates for his work ethic and leadership.
And new Lantern recruits need to be trained by the best, and the best is Killawog. Killawog, like Collins, is more than just a massive body whose ring emanates constructs and is powered by will. On his home planet, Bolovax Vik, Killawog was a renowned geneticist. Collins was a 2014 Academic All-Big Ten and made the Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll. Using his will power. Collins looks to continue to make strides in his junior year - and that's bad news for opposing quarterbacks, ya poozer!
Josh Banderas - Banderas has certainly made the most out of his college life, both on the field and off. On the field, Bando was a True Freshman All-American (according to 247Sports) and was an Honorable Mention on the Big Ten All-Freshman team in 2013. Off the field, well, some bikes went missing. In 2014, redemption was on his mind, and the sophomore played in twelve games, starting six, including the Holiday Bowl against USC. And it was in that game against those dastardly Trojans that the sophomore truly showed what he is capable of, recording fourteen tackles.
It is safe to say that the kid who made a few mistakes has truly learned from them and has turned over a new leaf. It is this tale of redemption that I make perhaps my most bold statement thus far. In the comic book world, Josh Banderas is Peter Parker/Spider-Man.
Spider-Man notoriously let a robber run right past him, rather than stopping him, all because of a dispute over some money he thought he was owed. Peter Parker could not have foreseen that the man he let escape would be the same person who would shoot his Uncle Ben, thus starting a chain reaction that is the genesis of the Spider-Man character.
Is that a stretch? Probably. No one died because some bikes were stolen. But I believe that Bando is a better person now than he was before that incident, just as much as I believe that there would be no Spider-Man had Uncle Ben lived. Because as we all know, "with great power comes great responsibility." (Spider-Man has been played on the big screen by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, and we will see a new Spidey in Captain America: Civil War, when Tom Holland swings into action)
The man said "some sort of hero gang for the secondary." And that was before he ended up in the hospital. This one's for you, Jon!
The Secondary - The faces and names change, but they are all out there for one purpose...they are the last line of defense. Names like Byerson Cockrell, Daniel Davie, Jonathon Rose, Boaz Joseph, Charles Jackson, Joshua Kalu, and Nate Gerry. When the opponents have beaten the first two lines of defense, they are all that stands in the way of a six being hung on the opposing scoreboard.
They must work independently, yet as a unit, to make the play that saves the day. The secondary knows that failure is not an option. Yet they are not always successful. And we have seen, in recent years, that sometimes they go out, only to have blown coverage or missed tackles.
But they keep going; it's a tough and often thankless job, being a member of the Suicide Squad. The Suicide Squad has been around since the late 1950s, and has mostly consisted of villains put on a government-operated team. Should they be successful, the inmates of Belle Reve Prison get to shave a little time off of their usually life-without-parole sentences. They do the jobs that the regular heroes can't - or won't - do. So when you are truly out of options, the Suicide Squad is your last hope.
And with Nate Gerry already having the nickname Bane (so I've been told), it really was either this or the Secret Society of Super Villains. (The Suicide Squad will hit theaters in August 2016, starring Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, and many more)
So that's it. That's how my brain typically operates. Everything receives a pop culture reference. Thank God my wife loves me and accepts the fact that I'll be passing all of this stuff on to our baby.